Allan Rich, who was blacklisted in Hollywood early in his career and later found his niche as a versatile character actor in hundreds of roles, died on Aug. 22 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 94.
Rich’s notable feature film credits included playing district attorney Herman Tauber in Sidney Lumet’s “Serpico,” Judge Juttson in Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad,” and television executive Robert Kintner in Robert Redford’s “Quiz Show,” for which The New York Times reviewed his performance as having “the gruff assurance of a real executive.”
Rich was born Benjamin Norman Schultz on Feb. 8, 1926, in New York’s the Bronx. In 1943 he made his Broadway debut in “I’ll Take the High Road,” produced by Milton Berle. He became lifelong friends with Berle and went on to work with Edward G. Robinson, Claude Raines, Ralph Bellamy, Jack Palance, Kim Hunter and Henry Fonda. He also appeared in the Broadway productions of “Career Angel,” “Darkness at Noon,” and “The Emperor’s Clothes.”
During the mid-1940s, Rich was part of the Theatrical Action Committee to Free Willie McGee, a Black man from Mississippi who had been convicted of rape in 1945 and subsequently electrocuted in 1951. Rich’s advocacy of civil rights landed his name in Red Channels, the Hollywood blacklist.
No longer able to get a job as an actor, and needing to support a young family, he became a stockbroker, eventually opening a brokerage firm. He also developed an expertise in modern art and opened the Allan Rich Galleries on Madison Avenue. He published a series of lithographs by Salvador Dali and later wrote a screenplay about their escapades in the art world. He also helped George Hurrell become rediscovered for his portraits of Hollywood stars of the Golden Age.
Rich returned to acting in Harold Clurman’s After Theatre Master Class in the early 1960s, and in 1966 he appeared on stage in “Journey of the Fifth Horse” with a young Dustin Hoffman. He began appearing in films after being cast in “Serpico” in 1973. His television appearances, beginning with “Armstrong Circle Theatre” and “Naked City,” included “All in the Family,” “Baretta,” “Kojak,” “NYPD Blue,” “Barney Miller,” “Happy Days,” “The Nanny” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Rich developed his own acting technique, detailed in his book “A Leap From the Method.” Some of his famous students include Sharon Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rene Russo, Donna Dixon, Alan Thicke and Larry Miller. In 1994, Rich co-founded We Care About Kids, a non-profit organization that produced live-action educational short films distributed free to middle and high school youths to fight prejudice.
Rich’s wife of 62 years, Elaine, passed away in 2015 after serving as personal manager to Fran Drescher, Peter Marc Jacobson and Dixon.
“He lived large and was quite heroic to many including me when faced with the depths of despair,” Drescher said. “He had a great intellect and excelled in everything he set his mind to. He was always on the side of good and right.”
He is survived by his son David and daughter-in-law Wendy, his daughter Marian and son-in-law Ed, and his two grandchildren Julia and Ruby. The family has asked that donations be made to his daughter Marian’s non-profit Global Play Brigade in an effort to help those impacted by Covid-19 by visiting https://www.globalplaybrigade.org.
Subscribe to Variety Newsletters and Email Alerts!